With 15-0 Clemson’s resounding 44-16 demolition of 14-1 Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday night, the Tigers sealed their third national championship in the sport, and second the past three years.
Notre Dame at 12-1 finished a debatable No. 5, even though 1) the lone defeat was by 27 to No. 1 Clemson in the playoff semifinal, whereas No. 3 Ohio State lost by 29 to 6-7 Purdue and 2) No. 4 Oklahoma had two losses and the No. 101-ranked scoring defense (33.3 points per game) among 129 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
The Sooners’ playoff brethren this year were No. 1 (Clemson), No. 6 (Alabama) and No. 13 (Notre Dame) in scoring defense.
The gap between Ohio State (1,364 points in the AP voting) and Oklahoma (1,356) was close, but Notre Dame was a distant No. 5 (1,286).
Here are some facts and figures about the AP poll since its debut in 1936:
• Ten years ago at this time, Notre Dame had won the most AP national titles with eight, followed closely by Alabama and Oklahoma with seven apiece. The Sooners just missed tying the Irish at the end of the 2008 campaign after losing to Florida in the then Bowl Championship Series title game.
Alas, the Crimson Tide has won five since then to take a commanding lead in titles, although it was unable to pick up lucky No. 13 versus the Tigers.
• This is the fifth time Notre Dame has placed No. 5 in the final AP poll. The others were in 1938 under Elmer Layden — when the Fighting Irish lost the national title on the final day of the season — and then the three consecutive years under Ara Parseghian from 1967-69 (despite having two losses each time, and even 7-2-1 in 1968).
Notre Dame has finished No. 1 eight times, No. 2 five times, and three times apiece at No. 3 and No. 4. That means 24 finishes in the top 5 in the 83-year history of the poll.
• The No. 5 ranking marked only the third time in the last 25 seasons (1994-2018) Notre Dame finished in the top 10. During that span, the only higher final placement was No. 4 in 2012 by another 12-1 Irish crew.
• Brian Kelly now has the fourth-most AP top-5 finishes among the dozen non-interim coaches at Notre Dame since the inaugural AP coach. His two (2012 and 2018) during his first nine seasons trail Frank Leahy (8), Parseghian (7) and Lou Holtz (4), all of whom coached 11 seasons.
Elmer Layden and Terry Brennan had one apiece in five seasons with the AP poll, as did Dan Devine in six years — the 1977 national title.
The AP poll was not in existence during Knute Rockne’s era from 1918-30.
• After defeating four teams that finished in the top 25 last year, Notre Dame conquered three more this year: No. 14 Michigan (24-17), No. 15 Syracuse (36-3) and No. 21 Northwestern (31-21).
Stanford (38-17) finished No. 27 in the “also receiving votes” category.
Notre Dame’s fellow playoff members had three apiece as well, although Clemson crushing Alabama and the Irish by a combined 55 points in the playoff was by far the most impressive.
• This was the 24th time in the 83-year history of the AP poll — or the other wire service poll that was known either as the UP or UPI — Notre Dame lost to the eventual national champion. The first was 21-6 to Pitt in 1937, and the most recent this past Dec. 29 to Clemson (30-3).
Thirteen of those 24 defeats to the eventual champion came during a 24-year period from 1967 (24-7 to USC) through 1990 (10-9 to Colorado in the Orange Bowl). The average defeat in those games was 31-10 — with that exact score occurring against Pitt in 1976, and not too far off the 30-3 result versus Clemson this season.
Notre Dame did defeat the 1993 national champion, Florida State (31-24).
The final 2018 AP poll, with Clemson receiving all 61 first-place votes:
1. Clemson (15-0)
2. Alabama (14-1)
3. Ohio State (13-1)
4. Oklahoma (12-2)
5. Notre Dame (12-1)
6. LSU (10-3)
7. Florida (10-3)
8. Georgia (11-3)
9. Texas (10-4)
10. Washington St. (11-2)
11. UCF (12-1)
12. Kentucky (10-3)
13. Washington (10-4)
14. Michigan (10-3)
15. Syracuse (10-3)
16. Texas A&M (9-4)
17. Penn State (9-4)
18. Fresno State (12-2)
19. Army (11-2)
20. West Virginia (8-4)
21. Northwestern (9-5)
22. Utah State (11-2)
23. Boise State (10-3)
24. Cincinnati (11-2)
25. Iowa (9-4)